WASHINGTON (AP) — Fueled in part by anxiety over Donald Trump, District of Columbia Republicans flocked to a downtown hotel on Saturday to cast ballots in the city's first-of-its-kind presidential convention.
The convention — essentially a primary conducted in a single, supersized precinct — offered a rare opportunity for Republicans in the overwhelmingly Democratic nation's capital to cast a meaningful vote, with 19 delegates to the national convention at stake. Turnout appeared robust, with people waiting more than an hour to vote in a line that stretched longer than two city blocks on Saturday afternoon.
"This is worse than getting a new iPhone," said Jeni Hansen, 38, who works in the tourism industry.
Volunteers for Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Marco Rubio were handing out brochures and stickers, and support for Rubio — who has won just one primary and faces a crucial test Tuesday in his home state of Florida — appeared particularly strong. The District's 27,000 registered Republicans tend to be moderate and establishment-friendly, and some voters sported a sticker with the hashtag "#NeverTrump."
"Trump alternately scares and horrifies me," said Bryan Marra, a 39-year-old attorney who was running as a delegate for Rubio. "He scares off people we need to bring into the party — Latinos, young people, women."
The local GOP is heavy on what some would call "Beltway elites" — lawyers, lobbyists, political strategists and think-tank wonks. Candidates for delegate include former White House officials from the Reagan and both Bush administrations.
David Eisen, 25, who owns an information-technology company and is running as a Trump delegate, said Washington Republicans who represent special-interest groups have a strong motivation to maintain the status quo.
"It's not a shock that those people want to elect anyone else," Eisen said.
Some voters said they didn't think Trump could beat Hillary Clinton if he wins the nomination. Others said they couldn't bring themselves to vote for him. Christopher Gobbos, a 24-year-old Rubio supporter, said Trump is "not a conservative" and that he would vote for a third-party or write-in candidate over Trump in November.
"As a Christian person I can't choose between the lesser of two evils," Gobbos said. "I can't vote for somebody that I think is going to radically change the country."
Results were expected to be announced around 9 p.m., with Orthodox Jews getting a chance to vote after the polls close at 4 p.m. The District's 19 delegates will be allocated proportionally, unless one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, which would make it winner-take-all.